Monty Python’s influence on British popular culture is inarguable. Ask anyone who has lived through the heyday of the 70s about the sharp and witty band of comedians and you’ll get a quip straight out of one of their infamous sketches. John Cleese was hilarious. He’s every bit the British comedy icon today as he was then – self-deprecating, funny and insightful.
Cleese is touring the US promoting his recently published memoir, So Anyway… and I caught an interview he gave with Jeff Slate of Quartz where he speaks of the art of reinventing oneself. Cleese shares that his spirited approach to life has mainly been around developing successful working methods through outside inspiration, having the support of a ‘venerable patron’ Sir David Frost, and his determination to succeed through relentless trial and error.
Whenever you hear about someone having a new ‘lease of life’, you immediately think that the person has received a shot of energy and is more active than they were before. In Cleese’s case, one specific example was when, before he was 35, he heard a remark by the famous Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl Jung that made him reflect on his life, and specifically on the law of diminishing returns.
“The more that you do of the same thing – if you’re doing the same things at 70 that you did at 40 – then you may have missed the point,” says Cleese. “I think that there are some people who love what they’re doing so much that they just go on doing it forever, and that’s fine. But I think for many of us it’s important to try new things. Of course, we’re loathe to do so, because when you try something new, you’re not very good at it, and you feel a bit embarrassed. But that’s okay!”
Cleese’s approach is similarly appealing to me. It’s simply that it’s all about feeling relaxed and enjoying yourself. Cleese has adapted over the years as a result of different personal realizations, one being that you can control what you do, but you can’t control how people respond to it. So it’s best to relax and be yourself. Nothing funny about that.